Blues from the Top profiles: Jarekus Singleton rebounds thanks to musical upbringing
Special to the Sky-Hi News
Jarekus Singleton knows how to dance. He can move his feet, flying down the basketball court. And when he picks up a guitar, his hands move deftly over the strings.
“I just love music,” Singleton said. “It’s like playing basketball. I had to play every position coming up. You know, learn a little bit of everything.”
For years, Singleton’s focus was just that: basketball. Growing up in Clinton, Miss., music was more of a hobby, something he learned in church.
“I just played all the time as a young kid,” Singleton said. “My mother played the organ, my grandpa and uncle played the guitar. Grandpa was the pastor. My brother played drums, and we had keyboard players in the family too.”
Singleton started his musical dance on the bass guitar when he was just 9 years old. He’s 30 now, and telling the story makes him laugh.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “So my uncle sat me down in a chair and told me what to do. From then on, I was the bass player. I don’t know what made him do it. But I’m thankful he did.”
Singleton grew up on gospel, but outside of church, basketball was his holy grail. He played on teams in high school and later became a top-seeded college athlete.
“I was strictly basketball,” Singleton said. “I started at the University of Southern Mississippi. I played there for three years, got a degree in Sports Administration. My senior year, there were some coaching changes, so I moved to William Carey University in the NAIA division.”
Things were going well until one fateful day in late 2008. Singleton was practicing at camp when he sustained what he calls “a crazy injury.”
“I went up for a shot,” he said. “In the air, you’re vulnerable, you know, and a guy came underneath me and I landed on my ankle.”
An MRI revealed the true damage, and Singleton ended up in surgery. Doctors had to remove some cartilage from his ankle.
“It took 12 weeks to heal,” Singleton said. “When I tried to play again, it wasn’t happening.”
Luckily, music was there to help break his fall. When he was 20, his grandfather bought him a guitar. The aging pastor had developed arthritis and needed Singleton to take his place in the church band. Once again, there were no formal lessons.
“We never did have money,” Singleton said. “I grew up in Section 8 housing. I got my training at church.”
That education came in handy while he was recuperating. Singleton moved back home and started playing gigs with local bands to earn extra money.
“I loved playing Albert King songs,” he said. “They were really funky. And then I started playing other stuff coming to my head, just playing and writing. I played gigs every night of the week. I was on crutches and I propped my foot up and played. That’s what got me back into music.”
He started the “Jarekus Singleton Band” in 2010. The group’s first album, “Refuse to Lose,” was released in 2011. The blues world took notice immediately.
“We were number one on the Roots Music chart for the first few weeks after it came out. It got some great reviews.”
Singleton finds inspiration in many different genres of music. If he likes it, he’ll listen.
“My uncle used to pick me up from the house,” Singleton said. “He’s in high school. I’m 11 or 12. We’d drive around listening to music, a little bit of everything. Country, rap and blues. My inspiration comes from everything. I don’t try to make my music come from anything.”
This year, the Jarekus Singleton Band is playing in more than 40 festivals, both here in the United States and abroad. The band recently performed in Germany and is headed to Ireland and France later this year.
“We’re building it brick by brick,” Singleton said. “I just want people to feel how thankful I am to be a musician. I want them to know how thankful I am that they’re spending their hard-earned money to come to our show. Music is a universal language and we can connect.”
He’s looking forward to his appearance at Blues from the Top in Winter Park next weekend and can’t wait to meet the fans.
“Colorado has such great blues fans,” said Singleton. “My friends told me that.”
The Jarekus Singleton Band takes the stage at Hideaway Park on Sunday, June 28. For more information, head to http://www.grandblues.org.
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